PT TOMORROW: NL West—Rojas rising in Arizona

Arizona Diamondbacks

While the Diamondbacks continue to make a push in the NL Wild Card race, they will be doing so without one of their strongest contributors from 2018—David Peralta (OF, ARI)—who recently underwent shoulder surgery that will shelve him for the remainder of the season. Peralta has struggled with the injury for much of the year, which surely contributed to his step back in production after a sparkling .293/.352/.516 line with 30 HR and 87 RBI just a year ago. This season, he’s seen drops in both HctX (from 139 to 116) and xPX (from 120 to 91), watering down his overall line to a still-respectable .275/.343/.461 with 12 HR in 382 at-bats.

With Peralta out and Adam Jones (OF, ARI) failing to provide much thump (2 HR, 54 xPX in 139 AB in the 2H), the team appears ready to give Josh Rojas (OF, ARI) a long runway to prove himself down the stretch. The 25-year-old Rojas, one of the pieces acquired from HOU in the Zack Greinke (RHP, HOU) trade, was electric this year in the minors, hitting .332 with 23 HR and 33 SB across 416 at-bats, posting very nice plate skills (57 walks vs. 70 strikeouts) in the process. Playing time was hit-and-miss for Rojas upon his initial call-up, but he’s started six straight dating back to last Friday, with one of those coming against a left-handed pitcher. He’s flashed nice power metrics in his small sample (126 HctX, 183 xPX in 55 AB), and recently had his 6-game hitting streak snapped on Wednesday night.

The right-handed Tim Locastro (OF, ARI) could also be worth a look in deeper leagues. One of the fastest players in the majors, Locastro is a perfect 13-for-13 on the bases this year, and despite hardly any power (88 HctX, 70 xPX), has ridden nice contact skills (81% ct%) to a .251 BA with 1 HR, 35 runs, and 13 RBI. He makes for a nice play in daily leagues or when ARI faces a stretch of LHP.

 

San Francisco Giants

The long-awaited return of Johnny Cueto (RHP, SF) will have to wait at least a few more days, as the 33-year-old right hander experienced some back stiffness after his Tuesday bullpen session in St. Louis, which was to be his final prep before his planned season debut this weekend against the Dodgers. Cueto, rehabbing from last year’s Tommy John surgery, had thrown 21.3 innings on his rehab assignment, with an impressive 21/1 K/BB while allowing 8 ER (3.38 ERA), topping out at 75 pitches in his final outing on August 31. Alas, the back stiffness will keep him sidelined for at least the weekend, with the hope that he can still make a few starts over the season’s final three weeks.

Of course there are a number of things that can happen between now and Opening Day 2020, but depending on how the final few weeks go, it stands to reason that Tyler Beede (RHP, SF) could be in line for a spot in the starting rotation heading into next season. Beede’s 2019 has been bumpy, to say the least. He posted a 6.75 ERA across his first 9 outings (38 IP) before turning it on in July, allowing 12 ER in 32 IP (3.34 ERA) with a 1.18 WHIP and 27/4 K/BB, a stretch in which he has relied increasingly on his cutter (20% usage, 19% SwK).

Logan Webb (RHP, SF), the team’s #4 prospect entering the year, also gives the team reason for excitement. He’d had two PQS 3s (@ARI, SD) sandwiched around a PQS 0 (@OAK) over his first three starts, allowing a combined 6 ER (16/4 K/BB) in 15.7 IP. Webb had pitched to a 1.85 ERA across two minor-league levels this year, striking out 69 and walking 15 in 63.3 IP. With a solid three-pitch mix (FB/CB/CH), he could have some success in what is lining up to be two home starts (PIT, SD) next week.

 

Colorado Rockies

After hitting .222 with 6 HR and 21 RBI across 144 at-bats, Chris Iannetta (C, COL), the team’s Opening Day starter behind the plate, was designated for assignment in the middle of August. Since his departure, the lion's share of playing time has gone to Tony Wolters (C, COL), who on the season owns a .272/.338/.341 line with 1 HR, 38 runs, and 38 RBI—good for a $4 value to date. This year, Wolters has managed to sustain the improved contact (81% ct%) he showed last year, and despite giving back a bit in the walk department (8% bb%), he has bumped up his HctX (85) and xPX (68) while adding more line drives (15% vs. 28%) than he had a year ago. The 27-year-old lefty often finds himself hitting 7th or 8th in the lineup, but could make for an interesting play next week with Colorado hosting a six-game set.

The other bat that has joined the mix with Iannetta gone has been Dom Nunez (C, COL). The 24-year-old earned a 6C rating in the Minor League Baseball Analyst, where it was noted that the converted infielder has progressed well defensively in recent seasons, and flashes fringe-to-average tools across the board. Nunez’s bat was the more questionable aspect of his profile, but he (like many other Triple-A hitters) had seen a power uptick with 17 HR in 61 games, slashing .244/.362/.559 in the process. His first taste of the majors has yet to be so kind, though, as he’s gone 4-for-24 with 9 strikeouts in 8 games.

While Nunez should handle most of the backup duties down the stretch, veteran Drew Butera (C, COL), who joined the Rockies for their playoff push late last year, could get a few starts as well. Butera’s defensive abilities still give him some value from a real-life perspective, but at 35 years of age, his career .190/.227/.286 line suggests he doesn’t belong anywhere near a fantasy baseball roster at this point.

 

San Diego Padres

It’s been an uneven year for Luis Urias (2B/SS, SD). The team’s #5 prospect entering the year, Urias looked poised to make the Opening Day roster before surprisingly failing to break camp with the team. An early call-up resulted in just a handful of at-bats (2-for-24 with 11 K), after which he returned to Triple-A and hit well, with a .315 BA, 19 HR, and 7 SB. Since his most recent recall in late June, however, he has been the opposite of impressive at the dish—hitting .202 with 2 HR in 114 AB. Perhaps more importantly for playing time purposes, he has really struggled in the field since moving over to SS in the wake of the Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS, SD) injury. Manager Andy Green recently said Urias will finish out the season playing SS, but after riding the bench in back-to-back games (and three of the past four), fantasy owners in redraft leagues could consider moving on given how little of the season remains.

Greg Garcia’s (3B/SS/2B, SD) glove and left-handed bat will likely find their way into the lineup on occasion, but the opportunity could really be opening for Ty France (3B/2B, SD), who has started four straight at 2B. France was demolishing Triple-A pitching to the tune of .399/.477/.770 with 27 HR and 89 RBI, but he struggled at the MLB level earlier in the year while filling in mostly at 3B. All told, his MLB season line sits at .231/.279/.392, 5 HR and 19 RBI. If he begins to catch fire though, his Triple-A numbers serve as a reminder of the type of ceiling he offers in the short run.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers

For a team with such a commanding lead this late in the season, there is no doubt some unease lurking beneath the surface for the division-leading Dodgers, as closer Kenley Jansen (RHP, LA) struggles to rediscover the elite form he’s displayed in recent seasons. Earlier this week, manager Dave Roberts said that while Jansen will continue to serve as closer, he will also continue to pitch in non-save situations. On the positive side, Jansen is still getting ahead of hitters (68% FpK) and generating swinging-strikes (16% SwK) at a top-shelf clip. One of the bigger issues, however, has been a 16% hr/f that has plagued him for the second straight year—a number that has only gotten worse (20%) here in the second half. Some have speculated that Jansen is still working through mechanical issues with his delivery, so it will be worth monitoring over the final few weeks to see if he can make the necessary fixes.

If Jansen were to cede saves, Pedro Baez (RHP, LA), who got the save after Jansen blew his chance last Sunday (9/1), could be the most likely option. Baez owns a tidy 3.38 ERA and 0.96 WHIP, but his 4.38 xERA marks the third straight year in which he’s outperformed his xERA by at least a run. He’s done a good job of keeping the walks down (2.9 Ctl) despite a 57% FpK, but he is still generating swinging-strikes at a 16% clip and seems to have Dave Roberts’s confidence, for now.

The more interesting skills profile belongs to Joe Kelly (RHP, LA), who has seen his pitch mix play up after switching from a four-seam fastball to a two-seam fastball (and leaning more heavily on his curveball) at the beginning of June. Since then, he has a 2.17 ERA and 1.03 WHIP with 39/11 K/BB in 29 innings. He’ll certainly be used in high-leverage situations in the playoffs, but it is worth wondering if Roberts could turn to him to close out a few games down the stretch as well.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.